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Harvard officials received training on ‘use of race in admissions’

Efforts were part of ‘diversity’ training several years ago

Admissions officials at Harvard University were instructed on the “use of race” in college admissions, according to recently-released documents pertaining to a racial discrimination lawsuit.

The documents in question “state admissions officers participated in ‘oral training’ that included discussion of the ‘use of race’ in the fall of 2013 and the fall of 2014,” according to The Harvard Crimson.

The instructional sessions from several years ago were focused on both “casework” and “diversity,” The Crimson reports; participants studied “a review of testing data by race, an analysis of demographic trends with a focus on ‘Hispanic and Native’ populations, and a breakdown of ‘cultural communities and involvements on campus’.”

From the report:

“Admissions officers also were told that ‘[r]egardless of economic background, Black students’ experiences are impacted by racial bias, both explicit and implicit,’” lawyers for [Students for Fair Admissions] wrote in the filings. “No such instruction was given with respect to Asian-American applicants.”

Admissions officers also reviewed several statistics meant to contextualize the “demographics” and “experiences” of potential applicants. This included the fact that one year, 49,008 Asian American applicants scored higher than 700 on the math section of the SAT while only 2,101 African Americans did so.

The topics SFFA alleges cropped up in Harvard’s internal meetings are commonly broached in admissions offices across the country, said Ed Boland, a former admissions officer at Yale University. He said these conversations are necessary at schools that—like Harvard—take a holistic approach to admissions.

“If you really are doing a holistic assessment of a student, those are some of the primary areas that are touched upon,” Boland said. “Those factors are helpful background information someone should have as they go into discussions of individual students.”

According to Students for Fair Admission, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, admissions officials are permitted “to consider an applicant’s race when assigning an overall score” to an applicant’s materials. In court documents filed by Harvard, officials argued that application readers are advised to consider “all factors in the application and considering how the applicant will contribute to the overall class.”

Read the report here.

MORE: Princeton frowned upon minority applicants who weren’t stereotypical enough, docs show

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